Intended for healthcare professionals


Melvin Glimcher

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 26 August 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5102
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Human bones researcher, gait expert, and prosthetics innovator

A barren field, wide open for scientific discovery. That is how one of Melvin Glimcher’s professors at Harvard Medical School described the specialty of orthopaedic surgery to him. So after Glimcher earned his medical degree in 1950, he trained for three years in general surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, and then completed further training in orthopaedic surgery.

In 1956, still in training as a chief resident, Glimcher had become fascinated with the structure of human bones and felt he needed much deeper scientific knowledge before he could hope to uncover their secrets. He started what would be four years of advanced study in biochemistry, biophysics, and engineering as a research fellow at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In 1957, only one year into his studies at MIT, he was lead author of a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA that described the role of the long chain protein collagen in the calcification of bones.1 The paper—which is still being cited—was the first of many groundbreaking papers by Glimcher that examine the composition of bone …

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